Depth, for some the word conjures images of serenity and inky blue satisfaction, for others it generates a fear and nervous energy like no other. Why we all react differently to the mere concept of deep diving is another reason why freediving is such a personal and inspirational sport. For most people in the first stages of their freediving career, deep diving offers up a challenge divided in to four main elements. These are ; Mental strength/peace, Physical condition, technical ability and using the correct equipment. Without all these elements working in harmony a diver can never realise their true potential. For example, a dive where the diver feels anxious but is fit, healthy and with good technical ability, will always result in a failed or poor attempt. The same can be said for a lack of any of the other elements.
The days leading up to any deep dive are an important time and shouldn’t be treated with any less respect than the day itself. Getting in to a relaxed mental state wont just come out of nowhere. Consider the few days before a deep dive as one big long day. Each night flows to the next day with a perfect and uninterrupted motion. Morning is no longer a new start but a continuation. By following this pattern of living, you will find the mind discovers a new peace and you will ensure that you treat your body with the physical respect it needs prior to your dive day, from the food you eat to the exercise you take.
In those preceding days your diet could have a big part to play in your deep dive. Its no good going out and getting wasted two nights before, or demolishing a big mac without a thought for your plans ahead. We all know that diet plays a big part of diving in general but this is magnified several times over as we get closer to an important dive. Im not going to tell you what to eat although if you follow these simple rules you cant go wrong.
No caffeine, no dairy, no alcohol, avoid oranges, sinuous and hard to digest meats, refined sugar, breads and gluten heavy products…. and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The key is too give your metabolism the opportunity to drop down a gear, thereby allowing you to enter a deeper state of relaxation and to get the most out of your breath hold.
Exercise should be undertaken in moderation in those days before, whilst on the other hand breath hold exercises should be ramped up a notch. Its perfectly ok to go for a run or two, but think twice about spending 4 hrs in the gym. You could strain a muscle or more likely, simply exhaust your self and stiffen up all those muscles that need to be nice and supple for freediving. If im planning a big dive, or perhaps a dive holiday, ill only ‘exercise’ once or twice in the week before the event but ill be doing stretches and breath hold exercises all day long.
Everyone is different, so when you are preparing for your dive day, you may find that you want to do more or less apnea than the next guy. All you need to ensure is that you are conditioning your body for breath hold, so that come ‘the big day’ its not a shock to the system! Try developing a regime of stretches and breath hold that suits you and doesn’t stress you out. Don’t focus on maximum attempts all the time, just get progressively more and more comfortable with times and distances (if apnea walking). Ill cover the specifics of training tables and stretches in other posts so keep your eye out.
Mentally you need to ‘keep the peace’. Try to focus your mind on simple and relaxing tasks, avoiding as best you can anything that could stress you out or take you in to any complicated and taxing thought. I like to read simple fiction, watch stupid movies and listen to mellow music as much as possible in this time. Some may like to do a bit more yoga than normal, concentrating on pranayama exercises and relaxation techniques. The importance of maintaining a calm state of mind is again amplified the closer you get to the dive. As this gets harder to achieve and especially when the performance anxiety demons start to creep in to your mind you will find relaxing in general a real challenge. I like to start to rationalise my own performance concerns in to simple and less daunting hurdles, breaking things down in to bite size chunks. If you are worried about how long you can dive for, think about how long you can apnea walk for! If you are worried about how hard it will be to equalise at depth, think how easy it has been when you practice deep equalisation techniques in shallower dives ( if you don’t do this already, its worth incorporating in to your training… ill cover this in more detail in another post).
If you think of a deep dive as one big scary monster it can be hard to overcome, but break it down in to little pieces and its a whole lot less intimidating.
Lets skip forward now to the day of the dive itself.
Everything which we have covered still applies but is all the more important, focus more on what you eat, relax more, stretch better etc etc. You should only eat very lightly on the dive day. I like to eat porridge for break fast and that’s about it. Drink loads of water, keeping hydrated is critical as it keeps your blood nice and fluid and allows your body to work the way it was designed to do. It will also make sure that your sinuses are well lubricated and not all dry and crunchy. You may want to consider a steam inhalation treatment in the morning as well, or using a neti pot, just to make sure you have no blockages up there! Start the day with stretches, both for you body as a whole and for specifics like your chest and diaphragm. Keep relaxed. Try taking your mind of things by concentrating on other small tasks (you can use these again in the dive itself). Take a walk and enjoy the scenery, focus on the beauty of the world around you, let your mind wander in to happy and relaxed places. If you are so inclined you can start to visualise the dive itself. Imagine each stage of the dive that confronts you, from prepping on the surface all the way to those last few critical meters in your ascent.
Ok so we are pretty much there… You are walking to the waters edge now, you are getting on the dive boat, you are putting your wetsuit on, you are gathering your gear…..
That’s it for Part 1 ….
Part 2 will focus on purely on pre-dive dive, site and surface preparation…. Including Mental and physical prep, gear checking, buddy systems and final breaths.